Economic conditions in the Central Minnesota planning area are expected to improve over the next several months according to predictions of the Central Minnesota Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI). The leading index surged in the most recent period, with four components producing positive readings. Weakness in national new orders for durable goods was the only index component that registered a negative number. Improvements in a general measure of statewide business conditions and a decrease in initial jobless claims in Central Minnesota helped drive the LEI higher in the first quarter. Also contributing to the improved outlook was a rise in the number of St. Cloud area residential building permits and an uptick in recent months of new filings of business incorporation in Central Minnesota.
There were 1,529 new business filings with the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State in Central Minnesota in the first quarter of 2016 — representing a 3.5 percent increase from one year ago. There were 134 new regional business incorporations in the first quarter, a 4.7 percent decrease from year ago levels. New limited liability company (LLC) filings in Central Minnesota increased 8.7 percent relative to the first quarter of 2015—rising to 840 in this year’s first quarter. New assumed names totaled 454 over the recent quarter—a decline of 0.9 percent compared to the same period in 2015. There were 53 new filings for Central Minnesota non-profit in the first quarter—three fewer filings than one year ago.
Central Minnesota employment was 2.2 percent higher in March 2016 than it was one year earlier. Compared to one year ago, 7,888 more residents of Central Minnesota now have jobs. The March regional unemployment rate was 5.5 percent—up from 5.3 percent one year earlier. Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 21.9 percent lower in March than they were in the same month last year. The Central Minnesota labor force continues to grow (rising 2.3 percent over the past year) and job vacancies rose to a rate of 81.91 per 100 unemployed. Central Minnesota bankruptcies continue to fall. The region’s 1,565 bankruptcies over the past twelve months are 429 lower than they were one year ago.
Economic performance in the St. Cloud area was mixed, with higher unemployment rates, less help wanted linage, weaker home prices and lower new business filings being offset by accelerating wages, a rising work week, higher employment, fewer jobless claims and a rising labor force. A recent survey of St. Cloud area business leaders was less optimistic about future business activity than one year earlier. However, this same survey suggested improved future labor market and pricing conditions in Central Minnesota’s largest market.
Banaian, King and MacDonald, Richard A., "Central Minnesota Economic and Business Conditions Report - First Quarter 2016" (2016). Central Minnesota Economic and Business Conditions Report. 9.